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1940s ladies wear – The Wartime Silhouette

June 2, 2016

There’s no denying that 1940s ladies wear was heavily influenced by the outbreak of war. There were shortages of everything including clothing, and women were forced to make do and mend, as fabrics were in short supply. Materials such as rayon and synthetic jersey were mainly used during clothing manufacture and the wartime silhouette evolved as items became practical and utilitarian.


1940s fashion paved the way for a masculine structure in clothing and with practicality at the forefront of design, women became used to wearing trousers or slacks to work and this also filtered through to general everyday wear.


The 40s also had a few subtle trends that blossomed and styles that have spurred design in modern fashion. Take a look at the key looks from this iconic decade.

Original trench coats in 1940s ladies wear

A fashion item revived time and time again is the trench coat. This utility style coat was a huge feature in the 40s with inspiration from the military version. As the trend evolved during the late 40s, it took on a bell style shape with large collars which gave a feminine touch to the iconic design.

1940s ladies wear - Womens 1940s Trench coats pattern illustration

Womens Trench coats

Slacks in 1940s ladies wear

Known as trousers in modern fashion, slacks were a regularly worn feature in the wartime wardrobe. Practicality reigned and women took on the need to wear trousers for work that soon filtered into an everyday look. They produced a strong style and a change in the way women viewed femininity.

Gingham prints in 1940s ladies wear

Favored by our American friends, gingham proved a popular print during the 1940s. The latter part of the decade saw a fresh new print gave a lease of life to the drab palette of utility style. Shirt-dresses and pinafores were popular in this print.

The Tea Dress

Holding on to a glimmer of style during the 40s meant the creation of the pretty jersey shift dress or tea dress. Designed in a variety of man-made fabrics including rayon, this unstructured design was an elegant and simple dress that radiated a soft feminine look.

Handmade creations in 1940s ladies wear

During the war many women had to make do with the clothing they had. Clothing was reused and revived to create wearable garments for practical and comfortable use. Garments had to last several seasons and acquiring fabric was not easy. Handmade and re-loved fashion came into play and women used a variety of skills to create clothing for the whole family.

Modern vintage finds

If you’re searching for a genuine 40s piece then you’ll probably come across an abundance of clothing made with man-made fabrics, very different from modern cotton clothing. Couture during this period was still available and the sales of fashion helped with the war effort. 1940s ladies wear is beautifully symbolic and represents a decade of struggle and triumph relived by our modern vintage fashion finds.